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Monday, 18 January 2021 15:36

Richmond takes 5th at season opener in Smithfield

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Junior Wil Mabe, pictured here, competed in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles on Saturday. Junior Wil Mabe, pictured here, competed in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles on Saturday. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

SMITHFIELD, N.C. — After several weeks of waiting, the Richmond Senior High School swimming teams finally got in the pool for their first competition on Saturday.

The Sandhills Athletic Conference held its season opener at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatic Center, a change from an originally proposed outdoor facility in Fayetteville. Several issues, including water temperature and chemical levels, played a part in the switch.

Fourth-year head coach Mike Way explained the meet was split into two different events, allowing for fewer teams to be inside the pool area at the same time, per COVID-19 guidelines. Six different SAC teams participated, with Richmond swimming against Lumberton and Pinecrest high schools.

“Our kids did well for the first meet of the season,” Way said. “We had everyone in the pool and they all had a personal best. It was the first time they swam competitively in over a year, so for what we had, we did really well.”

As a program, Richmond finished fifth overall with a combined score of 57 points. The Raiders also finished fifth and collected 35 points, while the Lady Raiders’ 22 points put them in sixth place. 

Entering the meet, Richmond’s numbers were limited due to a shortened season, but the team “made the most” of its two male and two female swimmers. 

Senior Thomas Barbee and junior Wil Mabe were returners for the Raiders, while junior Ellie Buck also returned for her third season with the team. Freshman Katie Way made her high school debut.

Mike Way explained that a new stipulation this year is that each team can only have two swimmers compete in the qualifying race in each event. Last year, seven swimmers per team could compete in the “A Race,” while additional swimmers could compete in exhibition heats.

“Having just two swimmers for the boys and girls actually made things easier,” Way said. “If we had our usual 10 or 12 swimmers, they wouldn’t get to compete as much.”

All four of Richmond’s swimmers competed in the 50-yard freestyle race, which sees swimmers complete one full lap in the pool. 

Barbee recorded a sixth-place finish out of 11 total swimmers, clocking in with a time of 27.29 seconds and earned 13 points. Mabe was right behind him, finishing the race in 31.89 seconds (ninth place) and added nine more points to the team’s score.

In the girls’ heat, Buck and Katie Way took 10th and 11th place, respectively. Buck hit the wall in 32.54 seconds (seven points) and Way completed her first competitive swim in 49.00 seconds and put six more points on the board.

The only other event Richmond participated in was the 100-yard freestyle race. Both Barbee and Mabe swam for the boys and Buck competed for the girls.

Mabe’s time of 1:17.71 was a team-best and landed the junior in 10th place (seven points). Barbee finished just three seconds after his teammate, notching a time of 1:20.67, good enough for 11th overall and six additional team points.

Buck, who is trying to build her stamina to compete in some of the longer-distance races, finished her first 100-yard freestyle with a time of 1:29.20. She beat out Lumberton’s Sydney Lindsay (1:32.92) for 10th place.

Richmond wasn’t able to see either of its teams compete in any of the relay events, which require four individual swimmers to qualify. Relay races, in past seasons, accounted for many of the Raiders’ and Lady Raiders’ point totals.

“It’s hard to be competitive as a team without swimming in the relays,” Way said. “But for the races we were in, we did really well.

“Most of the time our kids raced in the lane or two next to the winner,” he added. “That actually helped us swim faster and to the level of our competition. We are making the best of the season with what we have.”

The boys’ team will add experienced swimmers Jonathan Alecia and Eric Singleton to the pool this week, which Way said would add some depth to the Raiders’ roster.

Pinecrest won the girls’ meet with 250 points, while Jack Britt High School’s boys’ team earned the win with 363 points. 

The second SAC meet will be held Saturday, with the location to still be determined. Way said it could be held in Smithfield again, or another site in Fayetteville may become available.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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